By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Aside from fuel, one of the biggest expenses RVers cope with is that of groceries. Tight budget? Here are some food dollar-stretching tips:
Don’t go grocery shopping without a list, as you’re more likely to buy things you don’t need. We “word processed” a list of all our frequently purchased grocery and non-grocery items. Broken down in basic categories, our list is laid out roughly as to where we’ll find things located in the store. For example, milk, cheese and other dairy items are in one clump on our list. We keep copies of the list hanging on a hook inside a galley cabinet. When something is needed, we put a check mark next to the item on the list.
If you find yourselves in a little “burg,” with less store competition, buy only essentials needed to get by in that area. Later, in the big city, take your list and do major shopping.
“Coupon” where you can. Not always easy on the road, but we’ve found that the big chains will often email their weekly ad specials. Once a week we get a big ad from Safeway and we print manufacturer coupons from their site. Most manufacturer — as opposed to “store brand” — coupons can be used in any store that takes coupons, including Walmart.
Not everything sold in “club” stores like Costco or Sam’s Club are cheaper than at the regular retailer. While milk tends to be less expensive at a club store, other items may actually cost more when compared on price-per-unit basis. Produce at the club stores is usually way out of line in terms of price, and not necessarily of any better quality than at a more upscale supermarket.
When shopping, try to stay in a dollar limit. After our major once-a-month blast, we take the remaining grocery money and divide it out according to the remaining number of weeks until “payday.” A hundred dollars left means $25 a week for the rest of the month.
So how do you avoid “overspending” when trekking through the store? Set your spending limit before you step in the door. Don’t worry about trying to keep track of how much you’ve put in your cart to the cent — especially if you “do it in your head.” As you stick an item in the basket, round the dollar amount up or down. For example, if the loaf of bread is $4.15, then mentally add $4 to your tally. If the hamburger is $6.67, then mentally add $7. We’ve found it better to use a calculator, but sometimes you can forget to punch in a number.